Education Minister David Joanasie appears to have tested the waters of opposition and found them too hot.
The minister announced April 17 that he won’t be opening schools after all. The doors of Nunavut schools will remain shut until September.
Many breathed a sigh of relief for the sake of young Nunavummiut but the announcement came with a caveat, teachers are still expected to return.
The GN made the safest call possible for its students and it’s this kind of prudence that is needed to avoid any possibility of Covid-19 transmission, but why not the same caution when it comes to bringing in up to 90 teachers who headed south earlier in the pandemic?
Joanasie said teachers are expected to create paper-based and electronic teaching packages to ensure students progress in their learning and that some teachers may work remotely “on a case-by-case basis.”
Why it is that some teachers may be more essential than others has not been made clear and already education organizations are calling for teachers to stay where they are.
Coalition of Nunavut DEAs (CNDEA) chair Jedidah Merkosak stated in a news release April 21 that the organization would prefer all teachers are given an option to work from home, emphasizing safety for all residents.
The virus must be kept at bay by beating it at the game of odds. The best way to prevent even the slightest chance of infection is having as few people as possible coming into Nunavut from the south.
Many other essential workers need to be flown into Iqaluit or elsewhere in Nunavut to keep the lights on and territory functioning. This is a risk but a necessary one.
Having teachers available to students is important so the teachers must do their best with the resources they have and deliver it to those who will benefit and there is little doubt this could be done remotely.
Teachers have a critically important role to play in the future of Nunavut and molding the leaders of tomorrow, but these are extraordinary circumstances and frankly they are not essential to keeping Nunavummiut safe.
Now some 25 teachers, out of about 93 who were outside of Nunavut during the pandemic, have already entered isolation in the south in preparation to return.
Even if Nunavut is able to stay Covid-free for the remainder of the pandemic, making these teachers return would be a move that flies in direct contradiction to the government’s own advice.
The safest thing to do is to have the teachers stay outside the territory and work remotely until travel within Canada is deemed safe again.